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Trusted Business Advisors, Expert Technology Analysts

Research Areas

Infrastructure Management

Includes Security, SRM, Cloud, ICM, SaaS, Business Intelligence, Data Warehouse, Database Appliances, NFM, Storage Management.

This section covers all forms of technologies that impact IT infrastructure management. Taneja Group analysts particularly focus on the interplay between server virtualization and storage, with and without virtualization, and study the impact on performance, security and management of the IT infrastructure. This section also includes all aspects of storage management (SRM, SMI-S) and the role of cross correlation engines on overall performance of an application. Storage virtualization technologies (In-band, Out-of-band, split path architectures or SPAID) are all covered in detail. Data Security, whether for data in-flight or at-rest and enterprise level key management issues are covered along with all the players that make up the ecosystems.

As databases continue to grow larger and more complex they present issues in terms of security, performance and management. Taneja Group analysts cover the vendors and the technologies that harness the power of archiving to reduce the size of active databases. We also cover specialized database appliances that have become the vogue lately. All data protection issues surrounding databases are also covered in detail. We write extensively on this topic for the benefit of the IT user.

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Technology Validation

Scale Computing HC3: A Second Look at a Hyperconverged Appliance

Consolidation and enhanced management enabled by virtualization has revolutionized the practice of IT around the world over the past few years. By abstracting compute from the underlying hardware systems, and enabling oversubscription of physical systems by virtual workloads, IT has been able to pack more systems into the data center than before. Moreover, for the first time in seemingly decades, IT has also taken a serious leap ahead in management, as this same virtual infrastructure has wrapped the virtualized workload with better capabilities than ever before - tools like increased visibility, fast provisioning, enhanced cloning, and better data protection. The net result has been a serious increase in overall IT efficiency.

But not all is love and roses with the virtual infrastructure. In the face of serious benefits and consequent rampant adoption, virtualization continues to advance and bring about more capability. All too often, an increase in capability has come at the cost of complexity. Virtualization now promises to do everything from serving up compute instances, to providing network infrastructure and network security, to enabling private clouds.

For certain, much of this complexity exists between the individual physical infrastructures that IT must touch, and the simultaneous duplication that virtualization often brings into the picture. Virtual and physical networks must now be integrated, the relationship between virtual and physical servers must be tracked, and the administrator can barely answer with certainty whether key storage functions, like snapshots, should be managed on physical storage systems or in the virtual infrastructure.

With challenges surrounding the complexity in managing a virtualized datacenter, Scale Computing, long a provider of scale-out storage, introduced a new line of hyperconverged appliances - HC3 in April, 2012 and updated the appliances with the new HyperCore software in May, 2014. HC3 is an integration of storage and virtualized compute within a scale-out building block architecture that couples all of the elements of a virtual data center together inside a hyperconverged appliance. The result is a system that is simple to use and does away with much of the complexity associated with virtualization in the data center. By virtualizing and intermingling compute and storage inside a system that is designed for scale-out, HC3 does away with the need to manage virtual networks, assemble complex compute clusters, provision and manage storage, and a bevy of other day to day administrative tasks. Provisioning additional resources - any resource - becomes one-click-easy, and adding more physical resources as the business grows is reduced to a simple 2-minute exercise.

While this sounds compelling on the surface, Taneja Group recently turned our Technology Validation service - our hands-on lab service - to the task of evaluating whether Scale Computing's HC3 could deliver on these promises in the real world. For this task, we put an HC3 cluster through the paces to see how well it deployed, how it held up under use, and what special features it delivered that might go beyond the features found in traditional integrations of discreet compute and storage systems.

Publish date: 09/25/14
Free Reports

HP StoreVirtual VSA and VMware Virtual SAN - A Closer Look

The age of the software defined datacenter (SDDC) and converged infrastructure is upon us. The benefits of abstracting, pooling and running compute, storage and networking functions together on shared commodity hardware brings unprecedented agility and flexibility to the datacenter while driving actual costs down. The tectonic shift in the datacenter caused by software-defined storage and networking will prove to be as great as, and may prove to be greater than, the shift to virtualized servers during the last decade. While software-defined networking (SDN) is still in its infancy, software-defined storage (SDS) has been developing for quite some time.

LeftHand Networks (now HP StoreVirtual) released its first iSCSI VSA (virtual storage appliance) in 2007, which brought the advantages of software-based storage to small and midsize company environments. LeftHand Networks’ VSA was a virtual machine that hosted a software implementation of LeftHand’s well-regarded iSCSI hardware storage array. Since that time many other vendors have released VSAs, but none have captured the market share of HP’s StoreVirtual VSA. But the release of VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) in March of 2014 could change that as VSAN, with the backing of the virtualization giant, is poised to be a serious contender in the SDS marketplace. Taneja Group thought that it would be interesting to take a closer look at how a mature, well regarded and widely deployed SDS product such as HP StoreVirtual VSA compares to the newest entry in the SDS market: VMware’s VSAN.

The observations we have made for both products are based on hands-on lab testing, but we do not consider this a Technology Validation exercise because we were not able to conduct an apples-to-apples comparison between the offerings, primarily due to the limited hardware compatibility list (HCL) for VMware VSAN. However, the hands-on testing that we were able to conduct gave us a very good understanding of both products. Both products surprised and, more often than not, did not disappoint us. In an ideal world without budgetary constraints, both products may have a place in your datacenter, but they are not by any means interchangeable. We found that one of the products would be more useful for a variety of datacenter storage needs, including some tier 1 use cases, while the other is more suited today to supporting the needs some of tier 2 and tier 3 applications.

Publish date: 08/21/14
Report

Software-defined Storage and VMware’s Virtual SAN Redefining Storage Operations

The massive trend to virtualize servers has brought great benefits to IT data centers everywhere, but other domains of IT infrastructure have been challenged to likewise evolve. In particular, enterprise storage has remained expensively tied to a traditional hardware infrastructure based on antiquated logical constructs that are not well aligned with virtual workloads – ultimately impairing both IT efficiency and organizational agility.

Software-Defined Storage provides a new approach to making better use of storage resources in the virtual environment. Some software-defined solutions are even enabling storage provisioning and management on an object, database or per-VM level instead of struggling with block storage LUN’s or file volumes. In particular, VM-centricity, especially when combined with an automatic policy-based approach to management, enables virtual admins to deal with storage in the same mindset and in the same flow as other virtual admin tasks.

In this paper, we will look at VMware’s Virtual SAN product and its impact on operations. Virtual SAN brings both virtualized storage infrastructure and VM-centric storage together into one solution that significantly reduces cost compared to a traditional SAN. While this kind of software-defined storage alters the acquisition cost of storage in several big ways (avoiding proprietary storage hardware, dedicated storage adapters and fabrics, et.al.) here at Taneja Group what we find more significant is the opportunity for solutions like VMware’s Virtual SAN to fundamentally alter the on-going operational (or OPEX) costs of storage.

In this report, we will look at how Software-Defined Storage stands to transform the long term OPEX for storage by examining VMware’s Virtual SAN product. We’ll do this by examining a representative handful of key operational tasks associated with enterprise storage and the virtual infrastructure in our validation lab. We’ll examine the key data points recorded from our comparative hands-on examination, estimating the overall time and effort required for common OPEX tasks on both VMware Virtual SAN and traditional enterprise storage.

Publish date: 08/08/14
Profile

Software-Driven Mid-Range Storage: Customer Value and the Software-driven IBM Storwize V5000

Whether a customer is making their first foray into external storage technology, or buying their 100th storage array, there is little doubt in most customers' minds that storage can be hard. Specialized storage technology, combined with significant cost and the critical nature of stored data, mix together to make storage one of the riskiest endeavors most IT practitioners will undertake.

Over the past two years, the storage market has exploded with offerings that provide more storage system choices than ever before. In part, this is due to the recent and rapid introduction of technologies like flash storage that have enabled new companies to bring to market fairly competent storage systems with significantly less engineering effort.

There is little doubt that the resulting competition and choice are a boon to the customer, as this can drive down prices, and compel vendors to innovate and deliver new features more aggressively. But sometimes, new technologies may leave lingering surprises for the customer - especially for those customers trying to build a long term and lasting storage strategy. Moreover, storage technology is changing in multiple dimensions. There is a revolutionary shift toward software-defined capabilities, while simultaneously media, controller architectures, virtual infrastructure integrations, and workload patterns are all simultaneously changing. In the midst of such change, it is more important than ever to be attentive to what really matters, and in a changing market, what matters is not always clear. In our view, the consideration of the storage practitioner must broaden, and consider a careful balancing act that considers both new capabilities - like agility and cost-optimizing software-defined functionality - and foundational storage underpinnings that are too easy to take for granted. In this product profile, we've turned our sights on a recent product introduction from IBM - the Storwize V5000 - to consider how IBM is integrating a broad swatch of new capabilities while building those capabilities on a field proven and deeply architected storage foundation.

Publish date: 04/01/14
Free Reports

Fibre Channel: The Proven and Reliable Workhorse for Enterprise Storage Networks

Mission-critical assets such as virtualized and database applications demand a proven enterprise storage protocol to meet their performance and reliability needs. Fibre Channel has long filled that need for most customers, and for good reason. Unlike competing protocols, Fibre Channel was specifically designed for storage networking, and engineered to deliver high levels of reliability and availability as well as consistent and predictable performance for enterprise applications. As a result, Fibre Channel has been the most widely used enterprise protocol for many years.

But with the widespread deployment of 10GbE technology, some customers have explored the use of other block protocols, such as iSCSI and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), or file protocols such as NAS. Others have looked to Infiniband, which is now being touted as a storage networking solution. In marketing the strengths of these protocols, vendors often promote feeds and speeds, such as raw line rates, as a key advantage for storage networking. However, as we’ll see, there is much more to storage networking than raw speed.

It turns out that on an enterprise buyer’s scorecard, raw speed doesn’t even make the cut as an evaluation criteria. Instead, decision makers focus on factors such as a solution’s demonstrated reliability, latency, and track record in supporting Tier 1 applications. When it comes to these requirements, no other protocol can measure up to the inherent strengths of Fibre Channel in enterprise storage environments.

Despite its long, successful track record, Fibre Channel does not always get the attention and visibility that other protocols receive. While it may not be winning the media wars, Fibre Channel offers customers a clear and compelling value proposition as a storage networking solution. Looking ahead, Fibre Channel also presents an enticing technology roadmap, even as it continues to meet the storage needs of today’s most critical business applications.

In this paper, we’ll begin by looking at the key requirements customers should look for in a commercial storage protocol. We’ll then examine the technology capabilities and advantages of Fibre Channel relative to other protocols, and discuss how those translate to business benefits. Since not all vendor implementations are created equal, we’ll call out the solution set of one vendor – QLogic – as we discuss each of the requirements, highlighting it as an example of a Fibre Channel offering that goes well beyond the norm.

Publish date: 02/28/14
Profile

Software Storage Solutions for Virtualization

Storage has long been a major source of operational and architectural challenges for IT practitioners, but today these challenges are most felt in the virtual infrastructure. The challenges are sprung from the physicality of storage – while the virtual infrastructure has made IT entirely more agile and adaptable than ever before, storage still depends upon digital bits that are permanently stored on a physical device somewhere within the data center.

For practitioners who have experienced the pain caused by this – configuration hurdles, painful data migrations, and even disasters – the idea of software-defined storage likely sounds somewhat ludicrous. But the term also holds tremendous potential to change the way IT is done by tackling this one last vestige of the traditional, inflexible IT infrastructure.

The reality is that software-defined storage isn’t that far away. In the virtual infrastructure, a number of vendors have long offered Virtual Storage Appliances (VSAs) that can make storage remarkably close to software-defined. These solutions allow administrators to easily and rapidly deploy storage controllers within the virtual infrastructure, and equip either networked storage pools or the direct-attached storage within a server with enterprise-class storage features that are consistent and easily managed by the virtual administrator, irrespective of where the virtual infrastructure is (in the cloud, or on premise). Such solutions can make comprehensive storage functionality available in places where it could never be had before, allow for higher utilization of stranded pools of storage (such as local disk in the server), and enable a homogeneous management approach even across many distributed locations.

The 2012-2013 calendar years have brought an increasing amount of attention and energy in the VSA marketplace. While the longest established, major vendor VSA solution in the marketplace has been HP’s StoreVirtual VSA, in 2013 an equally major vendor – VMware – introduced a similar, software-based, scale-out storage solution for the virtual infrastructure – VSAN. While VMware’s VSAN does not directly carry a VSA moniker, and in fact stands separate from VMware’s own vSphere Storage Appliance, VSAN has an architecture very similar to the latest generation of HP’s own StoreVirtual VSA. Both of these products are scale-out storage software solutions that are deployed in the virtual infrastructure and contain solid-state caching/tiering capabilities that enhance performance and make them enterprise-ready for production workloads. VMware’s 2013 announcement finally meant HP is no longer the sole major vendor (Fortune 500) with a primary storage VSA approach. This only adds validation to other vendors who have long offered VSA-based solutions, vendors like FalconStor, Nexenta, and StorMagic.

We’ve turned to a high level assessment of five market leaders who are today offering VSA or software storage in the virtual infrastructure. We’ve assessed these solutions here with an eye toward how they fit as primary storage for the virtual infrastructure. In this landscape, we’ve profiled the key characteristics and capabilities critical to storage systems fulfilling this role. At the end of our assessment, clearly each solution has a place in the market, but not all VSA solutions are ready for primary storage. Those that are, may stand to reinvent the practice of storage in customer data centers. 

Publish date: 01/03/14
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